The Five Steps to Building a Creative Culture

1. THE CREATIVE AUDIT

How much of a “creative culture” do you have now? What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and blockers? I begin by examining: 

MISSION:

Can your employees articulate your mission? Can they describe how their work feeds that mission? Can they see what the customer is seeing of their work? 

WHO IS EMPOWERED?

As I write in “We All Have Superpowers,” your employees are waiting to be called upon to do their best work. What’s the flow of information in your organization? Who is empowered? Who are the “enablers” and who are the “blockers”? How can we turn blockers into “nodes” and tap into everyone’s “Superpower?” 

This also includes an inventory of your process. How are your meetings conducted? How do people delegate? How does management stay involved and review goals and progress? Who is empowered to make decisions, and what inputs and viewpoints do they weigh in those decisions? 

WHO ARE YOUR “PEOPLE?”

Creativity comes from inside. We dig into where your employees have worked before, what experience and resources they bring to your jobs. (Whether it seems “relevant” or not.) What are their life experiences? Their various talents? What do they feel good about bringing to the job, and how much more could they bring? 

How do they describe their job, your company and your mission to outsiders. Is it just a job? Or are they engaged and empowered by your mission?

WHAT GOES INTO DECISIONS?

How do you balance data, wisdom, and experience? What questions do your employees ask and answer with data? Are you expanding your understanding of the customer and your mission? Or, are you focusing on data that just reinforces your current practices? 

Being creative means being curious, flipping expectations, looking at “outputs” as “inputs” and vice-versa. It’s about entertaining “What If,” especially when looking at what the data people are giving you. 

YOUR OUTPUTS 

Given all of the above, does your mission, purpose and “Power” come through in the external and internal communications from your company, from Marketing to Packaging, to B2B materials?

2. IDEA GENERATION

We begin this phase by letting the organization know that their ideas have been and will be heard. We take the above information and respond to it. We let people know that we’ve heard them and that we’re entering a new process. 

We’re going to ask questions about vital areas of the company, as indicated to us from every layer of your organization, from the board to the loading dock. There are two main phases of Idea Generation:

VIRTUAL.

Employing unique software, we create a virtual wall where employees can leave sticky notes with suggestions and ideas. Think of this as your “two-way mirror.” You can check it at any time.

Working with leadership and employees that have been identified in the Creative Audit, we review these notes every day. We organize them in patterns. We offer feedback. Employees are invited to vote ideas up and down, a la Reddit.

As we gather ideas, we suggest that people think big… and then bigger. 

The goal here is to get hundreds of ideas. We’ll add “starter dough” wherever it’s necessary. We’ll work with you to incentivize your employees — although the fact is, there’s very little incentive needed. 

 

FACE TO FACE “BRAINSWARMING”.

(NOTE: Brainswarming is a technique developed by Dr. Tony McCaffrey, an innovation researcher and expert. It allows every voice a chance to be heard, fights large-voice dominance, etc. You can find more about him and his techniques at Innovation Accelerator.) 

We take the virtual results into a two-day meeting with people we’ve identified from both the creative audit and the virtual idea generation. These people will be the core of the collaborative teams we’ll form to execute the Minimum Viable Projects that we’re about to identify.

The goal of Brainswarming is to identify and discuss ideas that will grow your business. We define “Growth” very simply (using Byron Sharp’s definition from his book “How Brands Grow”): How are you reaching and converting more customers? How are you getting inside their physical and mental space? What memories and associations are you creating with your customers that advance your business?

We’ll discuss: 

  • Ideas
  • Possibilities
  • Enablers / Resources needed (Time, Money, Support)
  • Blockers 
  • Opportunity
  • Risk
  • Reward

 

The deliverable from this Brainswarming is a portfolio of 2-5 business cases for new ideas. These can range from small changes in process and practices to large-scale innovation in products. 

 

MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCTS

We form collaborative teams, using one or two people from each relevant department. 

We design and prototype cheap and easy visualizations and trials of projects that will test our hypotheses from the Brainswarming. 

We develop the hypotheses and clearly state the impact on the business.

We design our final “experiment.” 

We identify the resources (time, money, people), and also address any business “flow” and alignment that needs to be adjusted for the MVP to work.

We perform early prototypes trials and review.

We then do a full MVP. (Or multiple MVPs.)

We review the results and, if necessary, re-run the MVP with tweaks and changes. 

 

PRESENTATION AND REVIEW

The final phase puts the collaborative team in front of management, where they make their business case for the changes and innovations they’ve introduced. We seek the commitment of management, and put together a long-range business plan. 

The goal of this work is to infuse creativity into the entire “Value Map” of your organization. We put a culture of creativity in place where your company:

  • Assesses data and the needs of your business.
  • Searches for and identifies business solutions.
  • Commits to new business ideas. 
  • Dedicates and delegates toward a business plan.
  • Moves into production with an agile / creative mindset.
  • Reviews and accepts the final product(s).
  • Brings your product(s) to market. 
  • Reviews the data around innovation. 

HOW WE BEGIN

 

Lunch. Simple enough. We start out talking about your company and what you think about the role of creativity in your work. I come in and tell you about how I’ve seen these creative practices work in companies from NBC to MTV Networks to Discovery to FOX to The Oscars… and more. I tailor my conversation and stories to your particular industry, business and challenges.

After lunch, we spend some time with people you’ve chosen. We cover some of the beginnings of the “Creative Audit.” We identify areas where you could use some help empowering your employees and building a creative culture. And then we go to work. 

The risk of those first 2-3 hours is very low. I believe the reward is enormous. 

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